5-at-10: NFL power poll, college coaching hot seat item of interest, UT home run with a T-shirt, Rushmore of sports icons who changed their game

5-at-10: NFL power poll, college coaching hot seat item of interest, UT home run with a T-shirt, Rushmore of sports icons who changed their game

September 10th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Sports - Columns

The referee performs the coin toss before an NFL football game between the New Orleans Saints and the Houston Texans in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 9, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NFL Power Poll

Well, here we go. Full week of the NFL in the books.

Let the overreactions begin.

Are the Falcons that bad? Are the Titans that good? Are the Browns forever going to be the Browns? (Well, that last one may not be an overreaction after all.)

One week in, and hard truths are hard to find. We know the Patriots are very good. (We knew that before Week 1.) We know the Dolphins are very much the opposite of good. (We knew that before Week 1, too.)

And we know the fantasy football gods giggle at your last-minute match-up decisions.
With that, let's try to weed out beliefs from overreactions in this week's power poll.  

1. New England. Oh, my. Brady throws for more than 300 at the age of 396. The Pats add arguably the most dynamic playmaker and easily the most combustible and controversial player in the NFL to what is now the best 1-through-3 group of WRs in the league. And, maybe most importantly moving forward, Bill Belichick and his staff have reconstructed a defensive roster that is way more athletic than recent years.  

2. Dallas. I firmly believe that the Cowboys are going to be a tough out if a) they stay healthy and b) they stay on the field. You would have to imagine that Dak Prescott — as everyone in Dallas this side of J.R. Ewing has received a contract extension — after that opening day is quite curious about when he's going to get his monster deal. (No, I have not changed my point of view on Dak. I believe he's a middle-of-the-road starter who has the best O-Line in the league, no worse than the third best RB in the league and a sneaky good collection of pass catchers. Where would you rate Dak overall? Top 10? Not me, I think he'd be lucky to crack the top 12-to-15, but the way the NFL works right now, they are giving middle-of-the-road starters five years and $125 million.)

3. Baltimore. Wow, talk about a championship window. The Ravens have crafted it. The O-Line is good. The myriad of receiver moves looked great in Week 1. Adding Mark Ingram looks genius. The defense is stout because it has always been good in Baltimore. And now know this: All of this is possible in the here and now and in the next few years because second-year QB Lamar Jackson is on his rookie deal. In fact, watch for this draft trend to become more commonplace moving forward, because remember the Ravens traded back into round one two years ago to get Jackson. That means, unlike Dak, a fourth-rounder, like all first-round picks, Jackson got a four-year deal with a team option for year five at very team-friendly terms. If the draft is all about value, well that value used to represent getting the person you wanted at 6 at 21. Now value comes with that extra year on a contract for a quarterback.  

4. Green Bay. Too high? Maybe. But who had a better win in Week 1 than the Packers going on the road in prime time and prevailing against the best defense in the league when Aaron Rodgers was only pretty good? We'll wait.

5. L.A. Rams. OK, maybe the Rams are in that conversation about the best win of Week 1 too. They went across the country and played an early game against a good Panthers bunch. (Side note: Christian McCaffery is going to challenge 2,500-plus scrimmage yards, gang. Seriously. That dude can go.)

Powerless

28. New York Jets. It takes some serious doing to turn a 16-0 lead over a Josh Allen-led Bills bunch into a 17-16 loss. Yes, the foreign-born kicker who missed a PAT early that led to the missing point has been cut. As for the Jets finding a way to lose to Buffalo and watching the Dolphins do THAT Sunday afternoon, how much did Bill Belichick watch and giggle about the rest of the AFC East?

29. Cleveland. Forget the hype, the games have started and the Browns got punched in the face by a Titans team that was very physical and very focused. Now imagine how bad that beating would have been if Taylor Lewan had played. Again, I'm still not sold on Marcus Mariota, but we can all attest that there is zero overreaction about the unacceptability of the Browns committing 18 penalties for 182 yards.

30. Denver. Other than Joe Flacco's flowing hair, what a disastrous debut for the Broncos. The vaunted defensive front from Denver got to Derek Carr exactly zero times and allowed Oakland rookies Josh Jacobs and Colin Ferrel to show out. Seriously, who came into Week 1 with the most distractions? Yeah, and those Raiders worked the Broncos last night.

31. Atlanta. Harsh? Maybe. Will we look back in late October and the Falcons be 6-2? Maybe. But if we are going to gauge the opening impressions of Week 1 and not factor in the expectations, don't we have to be extremely concerned that a) the Falcons could not protect Matt Ryan against a defense that did not blitz all that often; b) DeVonta Freeman looked 132 years old; c) Julio only had six catches in a game that the Falcons trailed from the very beginning; d) Vic Beasley still is Vic Beasley; and most importantly, you got house-called by a Vikings team that threw the ball 10 times. Ten.  

32. Miami. Holy bleep what was that. And think about this, sports fans across the SEC, if Miami is all in on tanking and goes bagel-and-16, get ready for the stories about Tua staying for his senior year at Alabama. (Heck, maybe Jake Fromm, too.) Because ask yourselves this: Would you rather be getting better in college — with the college perks — or getting your brains beat-in and looking like a scrub with a Dolphins roster that may be the least-talented in the free agency era?



First domino to fall?

OK, the UT folks know it's a win-now or pack-your-helmet kind of world in college football. (And no, this is not about my belief that Jarrett Guarantano needs to be replaced.)

This is about the perpetual hot-seat world that is college football coaches making millions on the efforts of teenagers and young-20-somethings.

It's not an excuse; it's a reality.

There are a handful of power programs that have some powerful questions before them.

Yes, the second-year guys — Jeremy Pruitt at UT, Chip Kelly at UCLA, Willie Taggert at FSU — almost assuredly will get a third year unless the unthinkable happens.

(And yes, UT losing to UTC qualifies as the unthinkable. Heck, that UT faces a must-win date with UTC almost qualifies as unthinkable.)

Regardless, I believe we can all agree that the hottest seat in college football to start the season was at USC.

If you believe that, there was an extremely interesting development not involving coaches on Monday. USC AD Lynn Swann abruptly resigned.

Despite a 2-0 start, there is little debating that mediocre — especially during this especially mediocre time in Pac-12 football in which Utah may be the best team in the conference — will not be good enough for Clay Helton.

Well, considering the AD that hired him just walked, that makes the situation even more tenuous.

Here's something to watch for: Keep an eye on the USC AD search and see if the Trojans hire someone with ties to a certain multiple national championship coach whose name sounds a lot like Urban Liar.
Truth be told, with a clear-cut, no-doubt name out there like Coach Liar, it could very well force one of those power programs with a second-year debacle brewing to pull the trigger and get first crack at him.



Speaking of UT

We have been all over the Vols football program because, well, they are 0-2 in arguably the most embarrassing way possible.

That said, we all — regardless of the flags flying on our car windows — need to tip the visor to the UT athletic department as a whole for its recent gesture.

The story has gone viral and you may have already heard about the Florida boy who made his own design for a UT shirt for collegiate day at his school and got bullied for how it looked.

Well, the VolsShop heard the story and created a professionally done shirt with the kid's design and it sold out within minutes and crashed the website.

They also sent him a Vols care package, which arrived Monday to the cheers and support of his friends and family.

Class move right there, no matter what the record is.

 

This and that

— We have spoken a fair amount about the lack of understanding and connection Jeremy Pruitt has had after the two losses to start his second season. Things like that matter too, gang. Well, according to TFP ace sports columnist Mark Wiedmer, it appears that Pruitt has made a positive step in terms of his delivery in these tough times. Here's Weeds' column from the Knoxville TD club, where Pruitt spoke Monday.

— Braves played. Braves won. So it goes.

— This is a terrible look. Kent State's field hockey team was in double overtime against a ranked opponent when school administrators cancelled the end of the game. Why? Because administrators were told by fire officials that the daytime fireworks before the Kent State football game made the field hockey field unsafe. So rather than doing the fireworks at halftime or even after the game, Kent State brass stopped the field hockey match. Boooooooooooooooo. 

— OK, this Twitter video of the garbage man stopping to give a present to an autistic boy who loves garbage trucks and waves at him every time he drives by his house is everything that is right in the world. Enjoy. It's getting a little dusty in here.

— How about this stat from arguably the best stats-based quarterback analyst out there — Cian Fahey — via NoCheckdown.com? The most accurate QBs in week 1 will surprise you. According to their reviews, which factor in depth-adjusted accuracy and do not hold throwaways and dropped passes against the QBs, the top seven were: Kirk Cousins (100%); Gardner Minshew (100%); Jacoby Brissett (94.1%); Dak Prescott (84.9%); Lamar Jackson (84.3%); Drew Brees (81.9%); Russell Wilson (76.9%).  

— Interesting conversation on "Golic and Wingo" this morning with LSU coach Ed Orgeron, who said Texas did not have A/C in the visiting locker room. It was 100-plus degrees in the shade Saturday night in Texas, but LSU brought their own blowers after getting tipped off by Louisiana Tech about the lack of A/C. Here's a story from the Baton Rouge Advocate about it. Here's Texas' view, denying the claim. For what it's worth, if the games are going to be as entertaining as Saturday's Tigers-Horns tilt, I am all in for an LSU-Texas rivalry.

 

Today's questions

True or false, It's Tuesday, after all.

True or false, Urban Meyer will coach college football in 2020.

True or false, you would want Urban Meyer coaching your team.

True or false, you would take the Patriots and lay the 20 points over the Dolphins this weekend.

As for today, Sept. 10, well, let's go back to yesterday for a second. Did you know that Sept. 9 is the most common birthday in the U.S.? Seriously. Means a lot of folks are doing the hibbity-dibbity over the holidays, if my math is right. (Side note: Our oldest celebrated his 12th on 9/7. So there's that.)

As for the 10th, well, pretty big day in the early 1990s, as "The X-Files" made its TV debut in '93 and "Smells like Teen Spirit" was released in '91.

Arnold Palmer would have been 90 today.

Rushmore of sports icons who had the biggest impact on their sport. Go.

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